For many, joining Young Farmers is a natural step when growing up. Generations of the same family have joined their local YF Club and for me it was no different. Destined to join Avondale YFC I eagerly awaited my 14th Birthday. Now looking back on my time in young Farmers, I often ask myself, what has being a member taught me?

Aside from formal education, Young Farmers has had the biggest impact on my life. I’ve now been a member for 12 years and I can wholeheartedly say that it has been the best experience of my life. But looking back, can I pinpoint to what has played a major role in my development and what have been the most important experiences?

Young Farmers has done wonders for me as an individual. It has unquestionably helped shape me into the person I am today. Growing up I was the shyest girl you’d ever meet. I wouldn’t say boo to a goose. My confidence was non-existent, I let others make decisions for me. I was nervous in unfamiliar situations and would avoid interacting or having to speak in front of new people.

But since joining Young Farmers, I can directly attribute many life skills to my time within the organisation.

Young Farmers helps members to achieve their full potential through fun and educational programmes, such as competitions, training events & meeting personal development needs. Members need to be given challenges to keep them involved, whether it’s through achievements gained by holding office, entering competitions, participating in training opportunities or taking part in travel programmes.

The organisation includes a mixture of rural & agricultural activities, as well as life and vocational skills which are invaluable for the future.

The competitions calendar is at the heart of Young Farmers. It motivates members to have a go at something new and to broaden their skillset. Taking part in competitions where these skills come into play gives members a sense of achievement at all levels. On the other hand, being a part of a committee allows you to develop your business skills such as time & project management, communications, planning & organisational skills. It also trains you to keep records & understand financial reports, which in turn helps you to become more confident & productive in day-to-day life.

For me, the skill that stands out the most is what I’ve learned through taking part in public speaking. Starting out at junior speechmaking and being incapable of controlling my legs from shaking like a jelly, I’ve definitely come a long way. Learning how to properly address a room and command an audience has been invaluable. Being able to speak confidently & fluently to an audience, judging panel or in an interview is a skill I would not have crafted, had I not been part of Young Farmers. Not only have I become more self-confident as an individual, I can speak & perform in front of large crowds without being phased.

Young Farmers creates a wealth of opportunities and I feel the most beneficial of these is the wide-ranging travel programme. It was because of this that I had the privilege of travelling to the USA in 2017. Travel offers members the chance to go on adventures and experience trips of a lifetime. Soak in new cultures, have educational exchanges into differing farming practices, the chance to learn about other rural youth organisations and meet like-minded people – all without bursting the bank. It’s definitely an adventure that will pay off for the rest of your life whether it’s a solo, group travel or home-stay trip.

One of the biggest attributes Young Farmers has, is its ability to creates leaders! Its members are the future pioneers of tomorrow. There is more ways than one to make a difference and even the smallest of roles can make that change. For most, we learn the importance of leadership by working our way through the ranks of committees & offices bearers. However, any role within the organisation, no matter how big or small is a privilege. Appreciate it and be a role model for others. Set the tone for your year in office, lift, grow and nurture your members. You are a voice for them, hear what they have to say & act on what they really want. We take on a trustee role, leading and shaping our clubs to develop them to our member’s needs – it is in this way that SAYFC is a unique youth organisation as we are run by the members for the members – It is this structure that allows us to constantly develop what we offer our members in order to move forward with the times. SAYFC is not a narrow single purpose organisation. Yes, we keep & retain our traditional values on farming & the countryside but we have to be diverse enough to appeal to a wide range of young people.

It provides a platform to use our voice – key decision makers will listen to the rural youth’s point of view. We are the future of the industry & we can highlight our concerns through partnership with other leading agricultural organisations & campaign on specific rural issues. We have the opportunity to represent the next generation through research, sitting on committees & attending events, where we can share our point of view. By building these solid links with the agricultural industry we can connect to policy makers and make the changes we see fit for industry developments.

The comradery involved with being a member of Young Farmers is second to none. We’re always there to provide support, solve problems & help each other to achieve our goals. However, the past year has meant many of us have lost out on opportunities. We’ve lost part of our social network and some feel more isolated than ever. Seclusion is an extremely important subject in rural life & the effects of Covid haven’t helped. The isolation of lockdown will have affected us all in one way or another and sometimes family isn’t enough to bring you out the other side. We all have tough days where it effects our feelings, how we think and our behaviour. It’s important for office bearers to spot these in members and offer a bit of support, chat or word of encouragement – the future should always be bright when you are part of SAYFC. We need to lean on each other to get back with a bang & show that SAYFC is at the heart of our rural communities. No one is missing the material things in life, we all miss the company of others, great conversations, & a hug…that’s what life is all about.

Lastly, lifelong friendships are what I’m most thankful to SAYFC for. The social aspect is at the heart of the organisation. Friendships and connections you make along the way are by far the best benefits of being a member of SAYFC. Some of the first people I ever met are still my closest friends and will be for a lifetime. I would urge all young people to join this amazing organisation, no matter what background they are from. I hope they get as much out of it as I have. It’s true what they say you only get out of Young Farmers what you put in. The skills you learn set you up for life, the opportunities and training offered develop you as a person & I would not give up the time or experiences I have made for anything else that could have been offered to me. They really are the best years of your life!